Politics

Brazil reverses course, welcomes aid to fight Amazon wildfires

The Brazilian government said Tuesday that it welcomed all foreign aid from organizations or countries to help fight the forest fires in the Amazon — as long as it could decide how to use the assistance.

Brazil's leader earlier said he'd only accept aid offer if French leader withdraws 'insults'

Fire consumes the Amazon rainforest in Altamira, Brazil, on Tuesday. Fires across the Brazilian Amazon have sparked an international outcry for preservation of the world's largest rainforest. (Leo Correa/The Associated Press)

The Brazilian government said Tuesday that it welcomed all foreign aid from organizations or countries to help fight the forest fires in the Amazon — as long as it can decide how to use the assistance.

"Brazilian sovereignty is not negotiable," presidential spokesperson Rego Barros told reporters, adding that Brazil was not opposed to dialogue with France. President Jair Bolsonaro said earlier he wants French President Emmanuel Macron to withdraw "insults" made against him before he would consider accepting a $20 million US offer of aid from the G7 nations.

Bolsonaro said Tuesday that Macron had called him a liar and he accused the French president of questioning Brazil's sovereignty amid tensions over fires sweeping the Amazon region.

He spoke a day after the Group of Seven nations pledged $26.5 million Cdn to help fight the flames in the Amazon and protect the rainforest, in addition to a separate $15.8 million Cdn from Britain and $15 million Cdn from Canada.

France's President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28. (Jacques Witt/AFP/Getty Images)

Macron and Bolsonaro have been feuding over social media in recent days, veering into personal matters. The Brazilian leader on Sunday hit the like button on his Facebook page for a post by a supporter who mocked the appearance of Macron's wife, Brigitte. Bolsonaro added a quip about Macron being humiliated.

The Amazon's rainforests are a major absorber of carbon dioxide, considered a critical defence against rising temperatures and other disruptions caused by climate change. While many of the recorded fires this year were set in already deforested areas by people clearing land for cultivation or pasture, Brazilian government figures indicate that they are much more widespread this year, suggesting the threat to the vast ecosystem is intensifying.

The effect of the fires was evident in the Amazonian city of Porto Velho today, where a thick pall of smoke covered the sky for most of the day. Elane Diaz, a nurse in the city, spoke about respiratory problems while waiting for a doctor's appointment at a hospital with her five-year-old-son Eduardo.

"The kids are affected the most. They're coughing a lot," Diaz said. "They have problems breathing. I'm concerned because it affects their health."

With files from The Associated Press

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